As if I needed another hobby, since my spare time barely allows me to pursue my regular hobbies, I've started geocaching. Fans of LOCI will recall that there was one episode where the victim was a geocacher. I didn't give it much notice at the time, I didn't even think it was a real thing.
Then a few weeks ago I was reading my boss' "National Geographic Travel" magazine during lunch and happened upon the "fun family things to do on vacation" section. Since I don't have kids, I normally skip these articles, but this time I browsed and found an article about geocaching. After reading about it, I went to www.geocaching.com and it's a very popular hobby!!
To geocache, you need a GPS receiver. Most caches are put in either metal ammo boxes or tupperware, and there are websites that sell caching gear so you can buy a plastic camo box with secure locking lid. Some of the hints and info on the geocaching sites will specify what they have hidden in the boxes, and the object of the game is to find the cache, write the date you found it in the log book provided, then take one "treasure" out of the box and leave one that you've brought. Some of the caches have "bugs" which are metal coins that can be moved and tracked as they move from cache to cache. Most of the boxes just have little toys in them, some have pins, collectible cache coins or keychains. Then when you get home, you get back on the website and log in your visit so that the cache owner can track dates & visitors.
The other thing I thought was really cool, is that the people that hide the caches refer to the general public as "muggles", meaning that there will be a hint as to where the cache is (done in code, which code-key is on the website), then they will say, "be discreet, high muggle area".
So I went up to our local sporting goods store, G.I. Joe's, and asked the clerk to help me find a good GPS for geocaching. The clerk showed me several "Magellan"model GPS devices, and I chose one that was the easiest to use, the Explorist 100, and cost about $115 with tax.
What you first do when you set up the GPS, is go outside and turn it on, then watch the screen as various satelites passing over in space locate you. Once all of the satelites have locked you in, you get your coordinates. I am currently typing this at N 47 degrees 10.641 and W 122 degrees 08.843, and am at 517 feet above sea level.
I looked up my area on the geocaching website by zip code and was shocked to see pages and pages of caches in the Bonney Lake/Sumner area!!! I chose 3 that I thought would be the easiest for my first attempt. I first went to the one at Lake Bonney but unfortunately, there were a whole bunch of muggles out fishing. I left there and went to the Bonney Lake Park & Ride. I wasn't sure how the GPS would work, but I just started walking and watching the screen till I was at the exact waypoint location given on the website. The hint was that it was pretty out of the way and in an island. So I started lifting up the small bushes in the island, hoping I didn't get stung by the bees, and lo and behold, there was a camoflage box. I eagerly opened it, took out a dinosaur pencil as my prize and left an egg of silly putty, then wrote my date & visit into the log book. I could have danced for joy! It actually worked!! I was practically skipping back to the car.
Next I went to the 3rd stop on my list. It seemed fairly easy, except as I drove around, I found that I had to enter the Home Depot parking lot. Very perplexed, I watched the screen as I drove and I ended up driving to the back of the store. I got out and walked around till I was at the exact coordinates, but I couldn't see anything at all. The area is sparsely landscaped, so I checked behind the low metal guardrail-fence to see if it was stuck behind it, and nothing. There were 2 small trees, and the ground itself didn't look disturbed....the property backs up to a chain link fence, and beyond it, the land drops off abruptly, and what's below is private property. I came back home and looked up what other people had to say and apparently it's so well hidden that most people find it on their 2nd or 3rd try, if at all. I realize now that I didn't look up into the trees that are planted so maybe that's where it is!!
Just for grins, I have looked up the geocaches in the Victoria, BC area, since I'll be up there next month and have found several in very easily accessible places in the downtown area. One of them specifies that it's a keychain cache. I found one in Chemainus with a really interesting clue that says, "if the cougar on top of the tree could do a long back flip, he would abridge the cache". My curiosity is piqued! I also checked out where I work and they are hidden all over Fircrest and University Place as well!!! So I know what I'll be doing at lunchtime.
Anyway, I will go out and try to find some more caches around here. Some people really go out of the way to make it quite a scavenger hunt, that involve hiking, some climbing, with cryptic instructions and clues, but I'll stick to the easy ones for now. I've always wanted to find a treasure map and be lead to booty, and it's so cool to think that there's a new high tech way to treasure hunt.